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Document number: 04163
Date: 08 Nov 1840
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: BREWSTER David
Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Collection number: 1937-4866
Last updated: 26th April 2010

Dear Sir,

I return you many thanks for the two Portraits <1> which you have been so good as to send me, and which I now return. – They are very fine and show what may be expected from the Art.

The Editor of the Edin Review <2> has allowed me to postpone my article<3> on the Daguerreotype & Photogenic Drawing; but I again beg that you will be very cautious in publishing your methods till you have made them as perfect as possible.

An artist in Edinr Mr Thomas Davidson <4> No 12 Royal Exchange has made very fine Cameras for taking portraits. He is making a very fine one for us; & is an artist of great knowledge & ingenuity. He has executed Daguerreotypes far surpassing those made by Daguerre. <5> I have two that appear almost Miraculous. I have no doubt that his Camera surpasses any other yet made; as he has made a beautiful improvement in it in reference to Portraits –

I am Dear Sir Ever Most Truly yrs
D Brewster

St Leonards
St Andrews
Novr 8th 1840

H.F. Talbot Esqr


1. In September 1840, photographic portraiture, in paper processes, had been made possible by the discovery of the calotype process. As copying would have been difficult in the fainting light of the approaching winter, WHFT evidently could only afford to lend Brewster these rare specimens. However five early photographic portraits by WHFT can be found in Brewster’s album. For these images see: ‘A Man Standing in a Doorway’, taken 1840 or 1841, reproduced in Graham Smith, Disciples of Light: Photographs in the Brewster Album (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990), p. 140; ‘Lady Elisabeth Feilding’, taken August 1841, reproduced in Disciples of Light, plate 2; ‘Lady Elisabeth Feilding or Horatia Feilding’ taken 20 April 1842, reproduced in Disciples of Light, p. 136; ‘Workman at Lacock’, taken 9 April 1842, reproduced in Disciples of Light, p. 137; and ‘Nicolaas Henneman’, taken 1842 or 1843, reproduced in Disciples of Light, p. 37.

2. Edinburgh Review. The editor was MacVey Napier (1776–1847). [See Doc. No: 04147].

3. The article evolved into a combined review of four photographic publications, in the Edinburgh Review, v. 76 no. 154, January 1843, pp. 309–344, with a supplementary note in April 1843, v. 76 no. 156, p. 563.

4. Thomas Davidson (1798–1878), scientific instrument maker and Daguerreotypist. He was the author of The Art of Daguerreotyping, with the Improvements of the Process and Apparatus (Edinburgh: 1841). At a meeting of the St Andrews Literary and Philosophical Society on 3 November 1840, ‘Sir David also exhibited some fine specimens of Daguerreotype and Photogenic drawings, executed under the superintendence of Mr Davidson of Edingh and Mr Fox Talbot of Lacock Abbey.’ Minutes, v.1, 1838–1861 [Library of University of St Andrews]. For biographical details, see John Nicol, ‘Reminiscences of Thomas Davidson, a Weaver Lad’, British Journal of Photography, 15 August 1879, pp. 390–391 and 22 August 1879, pp. 399–401.

5. Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), French artist, showman & inventor.